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Operations of the Southern Pacific Railroad, with many images of the territory that it serves. With excellent footage of snow management and removal operations in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Sponsor: Southern Pacific Railroad
Audio/Visual: Sd, C
Keywords: Transportation: Railroad; U.S.: West; California: History and culture
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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R. Prata -
Subject: Production notes
This belongs to the industrial-film category, but it's so well written and photographed that it makes for a nice documentary, with historic and social lessons to be learned.
The sponsor and producer is the Southern Pacific Railroad, which name appears in the dedicatee, the supervising producer's credit, and the end logo, S-P.
The independent producer was Gene K. Walker, who also worked for Standard Oil of California, Tidewater Petroleum, Crown Zellerbach Paper, California Redwood, and the Western Pine Association (Portland, Oregon).
Early in 1946, when he had got this and another contract at the same time, he enrolled two cinematographers: Charles G. Schelling (former Kodak's Informational Films, New York) and Russ A. Meyer (Bronze Star medal as Staff Sergeant for his work with the 166th Signal Photographic Company during WWII).
"This is my Railroad" is described as "an incredibly ambitious employee relations film that was to occupy well over one year of company time" (Source: A Clean Breast - The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer, as told by Russ Meyer to Adolph Albion Schwartz. The Hauck Publishing Company. Hollywood: 2000. Vol.1, p.121)
My estimate is that the production started December 1945 and ended December 1946, with Meyer's work starting early 1946.
Subject: A truely amazing film
This is the most amazingly well put together presentation of the attitudes and beliefs of the era that created the land we live in; and unfortunately totally incomprehensible for what it is to any modern American.
By the end of the second reel, you can hear the pride in the announcer's voice, beaming through. As you can hear the gruffer pride in the voice of the hump yard operator in the first reel. It was pride in accomplishment. Pride in what they did. Pride in what the railroad they worked for was, and pride in what it was accomplishing and how it did its business.
It was not pride in "making money". It was not pride in firing another thousand people, or selling off a division, or manipulating the company stock price for bigger executive bonuses. In fact nowhere in the entire picture is an executive shown or mentioned, although modern audiences would probably consider the decent furnishings in some of the offices shown must mean the occupants were executives. No. It did mean that they were either important people or public-facing people. But in those days, if people were important to what the company did, you treated them like important people. Because they were.
The other thing about this that will be confusing to modern audiences is that this whole picture didn't seem to be about "making money". That's because it wasn't. Until the mid-1960s, people in America believed that people and companies made THINGS, and that you sold those things, and got money as a result. Money was a by-product of doing your job right. It was not the purpose of doing a job.
The money the company made (note: "company", not "corporation") was mostly plowed back into the company itself. It would buy newer equipment, more and better facilities, higher pay of the workers (and not just the executives). Why did they do that? Because back then people were proud of what they could accomplish. They were proud that they were making better things, and better things meant that both they and their neighbors could have better things. They were proud, almost no matter what they did, of "making things better for everybody", as was a very common saying of the time.
Now, of course, we know that the purpose of a job is MONEY. We know that business is a zero-sum game, and the only way YOU can get the all-important MONEY is by seeing to it someone else doesn't get it. We know that you can't MAKE wealth; you can only move it around from the people that have it to the people that want it.
Until the 1960s very few people in America "knew" that, outside of the Eastern universities. In fact most people knew that you COULD make wealth, because they saw the results every day; of their own efforts, their neighbors, and the people in the next town. The also saw Europe and Russia, where the Communists KNEW that it was a zero-sum game and all about transferring money to the party leaders. In the 1950s we laughted about that idiocy, and thought about how much better their lives could be if they could work for a living and be proud of what they did.
Of course we don't laugh any more; we know the Russians were right; the Central Government must control everything; work must be done to give MONEY to those that want it; making things will damage the environment and must be prohibited.
Its somewhat amusing that now that we have the True Religion, the Russians no longer do...
Subject: Im going to wash that train right out of my hair..
I think this is the definite train documentary on this site. This film contains EVERYTHING you need to know about trains, the people that work on them, and why Southern Pacific is The Greatest Company On Earth. Filmed in glorious color, this was a fun, if not overlong, train hagathon. The best parts were all about how they got rid of the snow off the tracks, how the switchman works (he doesnt have lip cancer though) and the conversion of wood containers into metal ones (though the wood ones looked kind of nice). Again, this runs for half an hour, so if youre into trains, this is well worth a look.
Wilford B. Wolf -
Subject: Southern Pacific
This film is shot in the late 1940s or maybe early 1950s, just as railroads were transitioning to the diesel era and more modern rail controls. The audience for this film is hard to determine; possibly as an introduction film for new employees, maybe something to show to investors, maybe a little of both.
But the film gives an excellent overview of the various jobs in the period railroad and some wonderful cinemotography, serving almost as a travelogue for the Southwest and West.
There is an interesting subtext of how we, as a country, are free to travel and exchange goods, a subtle reference to the building Cold War. There are also numerous assurances that despite the increase in technology used by the railroad, that the job is still labour intensive.